Monday, July 20, 2009

Apt to Teach

Scripture reminds us that one of the qualifications of a Pastor is that he be apt to teach. We use that word in different ways. Apt can mean prone to. Here is definitely means able to. Teaching is different that preaching. I know some great preachers who are terrible teachers -- and the other way around. Preaching and teaching are two things that Pastors do regularly so it is fair to assume that they might improve in these areas with time and experience (though not always so).

I have had some marvelous teachers over the span of some 20 years in school (elementary, junior high, high school, college, and seminary). Some have been big name people who have authored books and are known as experts in their fields. Others have been relatively anonymous. One teacher in particular stands out in my mind. His name is Dr. George Fry. I can still recall some of the classes in which he kept me and the rest of us galvanized by his marvelous teaching ability, his grasp of the subject, and his sheer delight in the teaching task.

As a student, I know from personal experience it is not just about how much you know that makes you an apt teacher. It is also a gift and a skill in communicating what you know. It involves knowledge of people (in general if not the specific folk listening to you) and it is involves an awareness of the culture and times around you.

A teacher needs to place himself or herself into the teaching but in such a way that he or she elevates and supports what is taught and does not distract from it. Teaching is a very personal experience and the person of the teacher is part of the teaching process (though not in any way dominant). A little humor can help but it is always good if the humor is self-deprecating (like the way Reagan joked more about himself that others).

The point of the teacher is not to impress the student with his or her knowledge or mastery of the subject material but to communicate that material so that the student will hear, understand, and be able to apply that knowledge.

My teaching ability is affirmed most when people hear what is said and digest it so that they can use it to teach others. Recently someone said that they took a point from one of my Bible classes and hoped to recall it and use it because it crystalized what this passage meant.

Parents are teachers whether they wish to admit it or not -- the teaching of a parent is much like the teaching of a Bible study. Your point is not to impress the learner or simply impart information. Your point is to help the child grow in knowledge, understanding, and application. That is what Pastors do when they teach Bible study. We teach so that the learner will grow in knowledge, in understanding, and finally in application of the Truth of God's Word to their daily lives in Christ.

All of life is an educational process -- a divinely intended environment of learning, growth, maturation, and application of God's truth to my life. If the teaching is successful, he will be learning at least as much if not more than the learner through this process. And so it is with me. Every class begins with the desire to teach others and in the process I learn, grow, understand, mature, and apply God's truth to my life. If only I could predict it a bit more and sustain/retain it all... But none of us has a line of progression that is linear or consistently upward. It is a series of starts, stops, declines and advances. That is why we never grow out of a need to learn. This is especially true of Christian faith and life but also applicable to all of our life as people.

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